Driving Myself Crazy with Citations

I’m spending the day learning how to use Evidentia and to create group sheets for my family and my parents’ family – which for some reason, I’ve never done.

My goal is to be 100% sourced for every piece of information in the group sheet. Every time I’ve EVER worked on sources for a group sheet, I’ve always had the same questions. And I think the perfectionist in me keeps me from sharing any of my information because I don’t want to be told that I’m doing something wrong.

These questions are not about formatting of citations, although I have plenty of questions on that! But because I don’t plan to ever put my information in any formal publication, I feel like if I select the wrong citation format (for example “Local Vital Records: Certificate” vs. “State Vital Records: Certificate” vs. “State-Level Records: Vital-Records Certificate”), any interested person could still find the document I’m referring to. (But I will admit to spending WAAAAYYYYY too much time trying to decide which format to use – and it drives me crazy because I’d SO much rather be searching for new records!)

So I will now list my questions here to see if anyone wants to chime in and tell me the “correct” way to cite my sources. I feel like these questions are going to be “duh” questions for a lot of you, but I also figure that if I have these questions, I’m probably not alone.

  1. When I look at a record – say, my birth certificate – it contains information for several pieces of information in my group sheet. Father, Mother, birthplace for each of them, my date of birth, my birth location, my middle name. So my question is, should I add seven identical endnotes for each of those facts? 1 “long form” full citation followed by 6 “short form” subsequent citations?
  2. Again, for birth records….I have 3 versions of my own birth certificate. All three of them give the same information that I listed in question 1. So do I cite all three of these documents for each piece of information?
  3. If I’m not to cite every record that I have, how do I decide which is best? The commemorative certificate that the hospital gave my parents has a lot more information than the “legal” certificates I have. Typically, I’d think that a legal certificate holds more authority, but the commemorative certificate was created while the hospital was collecting the information from my parents…information that was then passed on to the board of health for the legal certificate. The information is more specific and includes information not included on the legal certificate.
  4. Do I give a citation for middle names based on my birth certificate? My own, my father, and my mother? Middle names are often included on census records of my ancestors. Do I site those sources as well?
  5. Do I give citations for the name itself to indicate how I know that a person is a legitimate child of the parents on the group sheet?
  6. For ancestors from long ago, do I cite every source that gives a birth location? Birth record, marriage record, death record, every census record, land records, etc?
  7. Do I cite every source that gives the name of a spouse? Marriage record, census records, land records, death records, etc?
  8. If I want to include an analysis for why a specific piece of information was chosen to be included in the group sheet, is that indicated in some way on the group sheet? I am learning how to create these analysis reports in Evidentia and it seems they would be most helpful to include with a group sheet.

The bottom line is this: I want to be thorough, but I don’t want a group sheet that has such a long line of superscripts after each piece of information that it looks like a joke. The examples in my questions are probably extreme examples, but I just don’t know where to draw the line. I think that in my heart, I feel there should probably just be 1 citation for each piece of information with some type of notation that other sources were taken into consideration. If that’s the case – what is the format for that? Does every citation end with “see the attached analysis for additional considerations”?

There is an endless supply of web sites and books that will tell you how to create source citations. Is there a web site that might show examples of a well cited group sheet? I really only want to do this “do-over” once. For that to be the case, I want to do it right and I’m clearly frustrated!

Spinning Wheels

Ah….finally, I have a good portion of a day that I can devote to genealogy! I have been working on a list of steps that I’d like to complete every time I am ready to enter some information into my genealogy files. I have decided to start a new tree with my RootsMagic software and to be much more careful about adding appropriate citations for each fact that I am putting in. I am starting with myself and trying to be as detailed as I can with creating my “Process List”. The list that I have in mind right now is pretty basic and I think I’ll probably be adding to it as I go through the process. For now, the steps will be:

  • Use Evidentia Software to enter and analyse each source. (I am QUITE certain that this step will be broken down into several more steps, but I have not used the software enough to understand what I’m doing yet.)
  • Enter the information into RootsMagic.
  • Use RootsMagic to create the proper citation.
  • Scan the source if it isn’t currently in a digital format
  • Save the image in RootsMagic, linking to all appropriate people
  • Upload the scan/document into Google Drive (where I have already set up my folders with the format that I want to use.)
  • Update the Group Sheet  (already created) if new information has been discovered for the correct family within Microsoft Word. (These are also save in Google Drive.)
  • Copy the citation in the correct position within the Group Sheet.
  • Update the Notes document (already created) for the correct family within Microsoft Word. (Also saved in Google Drive.)
  • Copy the citation in the correct position with the Notes.
  • See if Ancestry needs to be updated with any new information.

Awesome! Feeling pretty proud of myself and ready to dig in! Now, where is that Evidentia software? It’s not installed on my laptop, so I must have put it on my older laptop. Hmm…nope! Oh well, this is a “starting from scratch to get it right this time” project, so I’ll just reinstall the software. The only problem is that while I have no problem finding the software case, there is no disc inside. And thus begins a 3 hour search in my office. Every drawer, every box, every computer bag, etc. And no luck.

So I was thinking about just biting the bullet and re-purchasing the software. This time, I’d be sure to get the digital download instead of the disc! But wait, I have the registration key inside the software case, so maybe…..sure enough, I was able to download the latest update to the software, enter the registration key and VOILA! I’m ready to go!

Of course, now it’s lunch time….

Well, my plan is to start with my own birth certificate in order to learn how to use the software. I’m planning on looking at the “how to” videos on the website, but I’ve also downloaded the User’s Guide onto my iPad so that I can use that as well.

That’s the plan! Now to put it into practice!

On a side note – let me warn you about something that happened to me. Rather than searching for “Evidentia” in my browser, I just took a shot and put evidentia dot com in the address bar. This took me to a very official looking warning about a virus infection on my computer as well as a never ending audio recording about how I was in danger of having my financial and private information hacked and that I should call a specific phone number immediately. My virus protection software has never opened a web page to warn me about threats, so I knew better than to click anything on the page. After closing the window, I googled for information on the warning and it was not hard to find. Don’t fall for scams like this!

Blog – How I’ve Missed You!

How sad to see how long it’s been since I’ve been able to add an entry to my little blog! Genealogy time is hard to find these days, but I’ve been trying to think of how I can do more research in small (often inconvenient) chunks. I have some ideas, but I could spend so long making a plan that I never actually get anything done!

So today, I’m waiting for a service man to come to measure our house for new carpet. Which means that I don’t want to get involved in any “real” work and then get interrupted. What a perfect time to think about some genealogy!

I decided last year (wow, actually over a year ago now!) that I want to participate in the “Genealogy Do Over” on Facebook. Starting totally from scratch making sure that every fact has a correctly sited source. And how far did I get? Well, let’s just say that I still have a folder sitting on my desk with all of my kids’ birth certificates waiting to be entered! So what better thing to work on in “small chunks”.

This “Do Over” in combination with the brewhaha over Family Tree Maker has shown me that this is the perfect opportunity to start a new tree in new software and to do it correctly this time. To be honest, I’ve never been real big on using software. I’ve always considered Ancestry to be my “master tree” and I’d occasionally sync with my FTM files, but it seemed like that usually ended up putting information into locations that didn’t make sense. For example, if I had a note included with some fact, the note might end up in the location field. And who wants to recheck every field for every person every time you sync your file?

Years ago, I had RootsMagic and I really liked it, so I have decided that I would go back to that. Of course, that software is on a laptop from long ago and since I want to start from scratch anyway, I just went ahead and downloaded a new program.

When I think of a total Do Over, it’s quite overwhelming! I think that I’m going to work on my Mother’s line only for now. I’m going to take the group sheets that I have put together and I’m going to number them starting with my own and working backward by generation. Working my way numerically through the sheets, I will work on entering data into my RootsMagic software, but I will only include information that I can include a source for. I will make sure that I have every document that I’m citing downloaded or scanned and placed in the correct folder in my Google Drive. I suppose that Ancestry will now be my “hints” file. What actual files can I download and source correctly? I’m pretty good about including notes in my Ancestry account to tell when something is a guess or a hint to follow up on later, so I’m not going to try to create a new Ancestry tree. (That plus the fact that it would probably make me cry.)

I also purchased Evidentia Software several months ago, so I suppose I should probably learn how to use that properly!

So I just wanted to say that I haven’t forgotten my little blog! I hope to be able to post more often!

Tickling my brain…

Every once in awhile, I feel like there can’t possibly one more thing that I can research on my “brick wall” ancestor, John M. Smith. When that happens, and I have a significant chunk of time to surf the web (such as during a full day of football on tv!), I decide to pick a “FAN” (friend, acquaintance or neighbor) and see what I can find. I try to pick someone who has SOME connection to my research to see if I can find something unexpected. Today, I decided to see if I could find a connection to a surname that appears on a lot of court records along with my Smiths. The Cook family is quite often a witness or a surety for the son’s of John M. Smith.

I had found a short Wayne County history that listed the significance of the Cook family. Four sons of Edmund Cook were doctors and were known for traveling around the area on horseback to take care of their patients. Were these doctors the same men whose names I was seeing?

I started off with a general Google search of the family and noticed that in a specific family, there were 2 sons who had married Ellis girls. John M’s son, George A (my ancestor) had married Talitha Ellis, so I decided to see if there was a connection. I discovered that they were all sisters, so the Cook family members were in-laws to my ancestor. BINGO!

Off to Ancestry to start filling in the names. This is where it gets fun for me. When I know I have a new connection, it is very satisfying to find census records – which lead to names of children. Finding the census records for THESE children begins to yield additional records – Find-A-Grave, Civil War draft registrations, land grants, marriage records, death records, etc. And THEN, I begin to see additional surnames that I recognize.

So now, based on a Find-A-Grave record, I see a female with a maiden name of Garr. That’s a surname that I’m trying to use to connect with a Smith family in Mercer County, Kentucky. So now, my brain is seriously “tickled”…can I make a connection? I feel like I’m going to need a nice big sheet of paper to start sketching out some connections which may very well lead to a VERY late night…and I’m excited!

Learning from the Inventory

Yesterday, I decided to transcribe the inventory that was taken for John M Smith’s estate. Because the only census that I have for John was the 1830 census, there wasn’t much to know about John personally based on that. So what could I learn from the inventory? (I’m keeping the spellings used in the inventory.)

John and his family were believers. His inventory contained 2 Bibles, a Bible dictionary, Sunday books (I wish I knew what these were) and 2 volumes of “Josephess Works” who among other things, wrote about Jewish history and early Christianity.

John could read and was interested in history and politics. The inventory included “The History of the Late War” (Revolutionary War – written in 1832), “Kentucky Justice”, “The Constitution of the Cumberland” and “Robinsons History”. There were also “public documents” which I believe were the papers he received when he became a justice of the peace. Also listed were 4 books (no details), 3 grammar books and a medical book.

John and his family enjoyed music. The inventory included 5 music books, 3 hymn books and a dulcimer.

The furniture included 6 chairs, another set of 6 chairs, 1 armed chair and 4 common chairs, two square tables, a secretary (desk), a clock, a sugar desk, “cupboard furniture”, a cupboard, a folding table, a looking glass, a “bord and chamber pot”, a bedsted and furniture, and another listing for a bedsted and furniture. No sheets, blankets or pillows were listed like I see in some of the other inventories of the time period.

Items that I would consider kitchen items included several crocks, a churn, kettles, skillets, 2 pots, 2 ovens (like a dutch oven?), tea kettles, pails, buckets, wire sifter, meal tub, salt tub, grindstone, a gridiron and 2 pot racks. Two sets of silver spoons, but no knives or forks like I see in some of the other inventories of the time. He had a candle box, candles and tallow. I’d imagine they made their own candles. There was no type of lantern listed.

The inventory contained many items used for weaving. 4 pairs of weavers harness, many slays, 2 hackles, weavers spools, warping bars and a large spool rack. It lists 2 cotton wheels and I wonder if those are spinning wheels. There was a listing for “two flax and one real”. I’m not sure what that references, but I know it could be used for making fabric, so I’m placing it here. There was also some sheep shears, so the wool was probably spun into yarn.

I believe that John was a farmer. He had 5 plows, one shovel, a hoe, a flax break and barrel, several axes and hachets,  one rye stack, two oat stacks, 7 1/2 bushels of oats, 2 wheat stacks, 23 bushels of wheat, 2 fields of corn, a cabbage patch, a sweet potato patch and an Irish potato patch. He had several sythes and reap hooks.

There was also a listing that I can’t read completely. It looks like fax and hoggshead and rye. Because there’s a listing for a still, I think the hogshead is a barrel of about 60-70 gallons.

Basic carpentry knowledge was a must for this time period. John owned a hammer saw set, a hand axe and draw knife, a whip saw, several augers, a cross cut saw, a saw and sundry tools.

His livestock included 5 colts, 2 mares, 1 bull, 4 steer, 4 heifers, 46 hogs, 42 sheep, 15 turkeys and 8 bee stands. He had many wagon parts, and one ox cart. He had 1 saddle, bridle and blanket.

John also owned a boat – which makes sense since he lived along the Cumberland River and Beaver Creek.

I was surprised to see no notes or receipts of any kind included in the inventory. “Neither a borrower or a lender be”? Also surprising to me was that there was no estate sale after the inventory. Could it be that the children just divided the items among themselves? There were still 3 children living at home at the time of John’s death. A 22 year old daughter and two sons between the ages of 15 and 20. Perhaps they kept everything in order to continue with the household? The inventory had been taken on Oct 1, 1835. Would there be a sale after the daughter got married 3 years later? She was married on 8 November, 1838 – would that be why the inventory wasn’t recorded until November 1838?  I know that each of the boys lived with or next to siblings around this time and both of them passed away in the fall of 1840…I wish I understood the customs of the time better.

The administrator’s penal sum for John’s estate was $1000 and the total of the inventory was $989, so that makes sense to me. Five years later, the two youngest sons passed away. Solomon’s penal sum was $200, but Benjamin’s sum was $1100. Where is the inventory for Benjamin? In the 1840 tax list, Benjamin is listed directly Whatafter his brother, Elias. He owned no land or any taxable property. Why was his administrator asked to pay so much? I have not been able to find an inventory or sale for either of the two youngest brothers.

I have really enjoyed working on this project. I spent a lot of time researching the various items in the list and I added hyperlinks to the things I was finding in my document. That will help me remember what the items were.

Pleasant Surprise with Google Drive

I spent the weekend transferring re-discovered files from an external drive into my Google Drive and while doing so, I discovered a few discrepancies in the files names of some records.  Specifically, some file names used the abbreviation “Bk” while some spelled out the word “Book”. While I was updating those, I also added a new level of detail to the file names.

In my genealogy notes in Word, I’ve linked each document referenced to the digital file in Google Drive. My notes include a cropped image showing just the section that pertained to my ancestor, but if I want to examine the full document, I can click on the link to open the document in Google Drive. After modifying so many file names, I realized I would need to go back to re-link all of the documents.

But as I went through my note file, I tested each link and they all worked! Chalk up one more advantage to storing on Google Drive – the link is not related to the file name itself, just it’s location in my Drive.


Planner Pickle

I have an 8 x 5½ genealogy planner.  I spent a lot of time selecting a planner cover that looked professional so that I could take it with me anywhere and not have to worry about looking childish (as I am very often drawn to bright colors!). I ordered pages in a design that I find beautiful and that bring me a feeling of nostalgia. All of this to “draw” me to the planner. I love to hold it and to flip through the pages. Because I am so drawn to it, it motivates me to keep it organized.

I have a very specific format for my pages and I’ve created many templates specifically to fit in my binder. In short, it contains all of the information that I have on a family without actually having copies of each document. I love my planner.

I take the planner with me to the library and on any trip that doesn’t allow me to bring my full sized binders or when I might be without internet – such as in the car or at my mother’s house. Whenever I have free time – even if it’s sitting in the car waiting for a family member to finish an appointment or sports practice or just relaxing at the park on a pretty day – I can flip through my planner and try to read things with a fresh eye and make a list of questions or research plans. I have research logs, group sheets, chronological notes, lists of resources, research questions, a page for each resource researched, etc.

I’ve been working on updating all of my files. Making sure every file has been removed from flash drives and download folders and placed into my Google Drive. The files have been renamed according to my naming convention as they have been transferred to this “final destination”. Today, I’m trying to update a “to do” list based on notes that I’ve written to myself in the planner.

I’m trying to consolidate all of the notes I’ve written and lists that I’ve made to put them onto the forms that I’ve created so that I can get them into the planner with the organization method I’ve come up with. But what I find is that my notes are confusing to me. And I always feel like I’ve been soooo thorough while I’m writing them! Ha!! Lots of lists! Lists with check marks, lists with things crossed out, lists with stars and circles – but very few indications of what the lists ARE. I can tell if they are lists of pages from an index to look at in a book or if they are scans that I wanted or that I’ve scanned, but how about an occasional TITLE? What book did the index pages go to? What what I looking for? What could I NOT find? What film did I scan? Did I move those scans to the Google Drive?

So I’ve decided that I need a specific format. Often, I email myself from the library giving a short description of what I was researching and what I found or didn’t find. So if I were to always include the date on my notes/lists, I could look for the email from that date and that would help me to know what questions I was specifically trying to find. If I include the title of whatever I was looking at (this seems like quite a DUH!) then I would probably save myself from a lot of reworking. And if I would take a few seconds to just indicate on my note where the files or photocopies were placed, that would save me from looking for digital files that “I know” I’ve scanned, but can’t find.

So I’m going to put a reminder in the front cover of my planner.  Date – Resource (film number or call number) – Location saved. Surely, that wouldn’t be so hard! And it would save me some frustration when I’m trying to consolidate things.

No great genealogy revelation here. Just a motivation to myself to do it.

Sentence Strip Timelines

Once again, I find myself with some unexpected time to work on some genealogy and I decided that I would work on creating something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while.

Last year, I retired from teaching and I brought home a lot of teaching materials that I thought might be helpful in presenting or organizing my genealogy work. One of those things was a big stack of sentence strips. Elementary teachers use the 3” x 24” sentence strips to make games and flash cards and to help students practice handwriting, sentence structure and such.  I used mine to make labels around my classroom because they are very colorful. You can get these strips in packages of 75-100 for $5 – $10 depending on if you buy them online or at a teacher supply store. Even stores like Walmart carry them. (In fact, as I look at the website now, I see they have wipe-off strips. Hmmm…..)

Front and Back

I’ve looked at these strips for a long time and thought that they would be perfect for making timelines. The strips are different on the front and back and my vision was that the timeline would be on the multi-lined side and the side with 1 line only could be used for notes. So I played around with them last night and I like where this is going so far.


I decided to make the timelines in 10 year chunks – to go along with census records. I decided that the focus of my timelines would be locations. Could I discover an un-researched area that I should be spending more time looking at based on basic census information? Especially after comparing locations for various people at a certain time? Could I determine a migration pattern for various lines in my research?

5 familiesI made marks 2 ½ inches apart and left a little extra room at one end to write the name of the person I was tracking. After writing some examples on some scrap pieces, I decided that the strip would be oriented vertically.  I have a column for the year, location, type of record and short notes. If I want to include a longer note, for example – more details on a land grant location, then I write a small arrow to show that there is more information on the back.

I like the idea that I can line up these strips to look for patterns and information that I might not have noticed otherwise.  I don’t think this will be the first time that I’ve mentioned that I’m a very visual learner, so this helps me a lot. IMG_2737


When I am not using the strips, I can clip them together with a binder clip and hang them on the bulletin board near my desk.


Father and SonOne simple example I can show is how I can determine the potential birth location for a person. When I place the strip for one of John M. Smith’s son-in-laws (Thomas Simpson) next to HIS father’s strip, I can see that it is likely that Thomas was born in Wayne County, Kentucky. Because I don’t have proof of that yet, I put the location in parenthesis. I certainly could have figured this out without the strips, but it is an easy example to show.

I decided that my goal for today’s project would be to try to determine the most likely location that John M. Smith was living for the 1820 census since I believe there is literally a John Smith in EVERY 1820 census.

John M Smith


First, I made my strip for John. I have a lot of information for John, but it only spans a 9 year time frame. Because I have found John listed near 2 future in-law families in the 1826 and 1827 tax records, I decided to make strips for 3 generations for each of those families plus the other 2 sets of future in-laws who I haven’t done as much research on. I kept the color for each family the same. Luckily, the package of strips contains 5 different colors, so I can have John plus the 4 in-law families.



1820When I line up the strips for the key people in the 5 families, I can overlap them so that I am only seeing the year and the location. I find it quite interesting that all 4 of the in-law families were living in Wayne County in 1820. Would it be out of the question to think that perhaps John M. lived in Wayne County at that time as well?

I believe there are 4 different John Smiths in Wayne County around this time. I’ve collected deeds and tax records for every John Smith in Wayne County between 1815 and 1825 (when a portion of Wayne County became the area of Russell County that John lived in) but I have not had the time to transcribe and really analyze them. Before this, I didn’t know if I wanted to put that much time into a wild guess, but it seems like more of an educated guess now and I’m anxious to see what kind of information might be hiding in the records that I scanned, but haven’t read. I think I’ll also go back and collect deeds for each of the “in-law families”.

My next goal will be to see if I can match land records to tax records to see if I can rule out any of the John Smiths in the area because based on tax records, my John did not own any land at this time. I can see that for that task, it will soon be time to fire up the Excel program!!

Wish me luck!

Now where was I…

It’s been months since I’ve been able to look at my genealogy, but I have a couple of days now with some free time and I’m looking forward to digging back into my research! But when I pulled out my binder of research, I find that I’m at a loss as to where to begin.

While I will push through this time to figure out what I was working on last (and waste a lot of time going over things that I’ve already tried to figure out), I’m thinking that it would be helpful to have a “hint” as to what I was thinking the last time I did research. If I had a short form to fill out at the end of a research session, I could write to my future self provide that “hint”. But I know that if it is too complicated, I won’t take the time to do it. So what would I like to know right now before I start re-reading through my binder?

  • What theory am I currently trying to prove/disprove?
  • What piece of information am I trying to find?
  • What was the last resource I looked at?
  • If I had more time, what resource would I look at next?
  • If I only have a small chunk of time, it would be helpful to… (find the address for _____, organize the list of _____, look at the library web site and make a list of books about ______, etc.)

I have an electronic research log that I use for each person, so maybe these 5 questions could be added near the top of the log or as a cover sheet for the log.

For most researchers, I’m sure this is a “duh!” idea, but I tend to go over the top trying to make everything PERFECT, so this time, I need to focus on quick and efficient!

Genealogy Do-Over week 2 update

It looks like I’m going to have a fairly rare week-end free from appointments and long “to do” lists, so I hereby declare this a Genealogy Week-End! (Except for some football – GO COLTS!)

I was able to begin this afternoon and here is what I have accomplished:

  • I have set up a new folder in Dropbox for all “Do-Over” documents.
  • I have decided on the naming convention for all of my documents.
  • I have set up file folders within Dropbox. Here, I must confess that I had to go ahead and name the folders with all of the male names that I have in my current tree.  I had to do this because of the way my documents will be filed. As a document is scanned, it is placed into a folder and then when the document is entered into my Evidentia software, I can link to the file in that software. I can change the names of the folders later if I find that I have an incorrect set of parents, but I decided I’d better set them up now to keep everything consistent.
  • I have updated my blank group sheet file to include “Genealogy Do-Over” in the footer so that I don’t get confused with former group sheets.
  • I created a group sheet for myself and my husband. (Funny, I never took the time to do that before!)
  • I scanned birth certificates for myself, my husband and each of our children. All of these files have been saved in Dropbox.
  • I am in the process of entering those documents into Evidentia (and using them to learn how the program works!) I am transcribing each document as I go.
  • As the information is entered into Evidentia, a citation is created (which I’m not certain is completely correct at this point) and a link to the digital Dropbox file is added so that the document can be found easily.
  • Using the citation created, I am adding endnotes to each fact that I have in my group sheet.
  • I am in the process of creating a short biography, but I need to find the list of places that we have lived that my mother gave me several years ago. I believe it also contains a list of all the jobs that my father has had, so I think that will help me with my biography because my memory is soooooooooooooooo bad!

This week-end, I plan to begin a brand new tree in Ancestry and expand my group sheet collection and document scanning back 1 generation to my parents and my in-laws. I have decided that I will not upload digital documents to Ancestry for any living family members as I’m just not willing to take a chance with those. I will start my Research Log for each family and use it to begin researching.

Week 3 is supposed to be a research week, so I’m hoping to get a good jump on that this week-end just with my immediate family. The goals are to find/use a research log that you are committed to and then to begin researching to prove the “facts” that you have for your family so far.

I’m happy that I don’t feel totally overwhelmed at this point and that I was able to get caught up! This may be the only time I can say that, so I just wanted to get it out there for the world to see!